To some, Mu Zijian, a student majoring in international trade at Sichuan University, has a lucky name. His full name in Chinese literally means "health for both mother and son."
Mu and his parents, all natives of Beichuan, a Qiang autonomous county near Wenchuan, the epicenter of the devastating May 12 earthquake in southwest China, managed to survive the quake, while they saw many of their loved ones perish in the disaster.
Then as if by luck again, Mu was chosen, together with 149 other college undergraduates from 40 Sichuan counties, to study for one year at 22 campuses of the State University of New York .
Yang Xi, a Wenchuan native, will join Mu at SUNY's Farmingdale State College. His father is an ethnic Qiang and mother a Tibetan.
"Our hometown is a place where many ethnic groups live harmoniously with each other," Mu said at a Saturday reception hosted by the Chinese Consulate General in New York for the 53 young men and 97 young women.
"UNPRECEDENTED INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION"
The project, dubbed SUNY 150 China, was put in place in a very short period of time thanks to close cooperation, high efficiency and government support from both sides.
"To my way of thinking, your presence here today represents a... miracle," Carl Hayden, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, told the Sichuan students. "Visas, destinations, logistics, things that ordinarily would take more than a year were accomplished in at winkle, because so many people so desperately wanted this to happen."
"No obstacle was too difficult," he added, hailing the "unprecedented international collaboration" in support of the project.
"In our hearts, we felt a deep need to find a constructive way in which to help, to reach out to you in a way that might in some small measures improve those dreadful circumstances," Hayden said, referring to the earthquake which took the lives of some 80,000 people.
He also read a letter from New York Senator Hillary Clinton commending "students for continuing to pursue educational opportunities in the aftermath of such tragedy."
"Your SUNY education experience will give you the tools that you need to not only pursue your chosen career path, but also to give back to your community back home," she said in the letter.
John Clark, interim Chancellor of SUNY, described the day as "a tremendous day for Chinese-American relations."
Congratulating China for hosting the Olympics, Clark urged the Sichuan students to learn about "the special history of Chinese in America."
"While you're here, learn about the history of the Chinese that have been in the country for centuries and contributed so much to the growth of America and made America what it is today, among the many immigrant groups that came to this country," he said.
Chinese Consul-General Peng Keyu urged the students to work hard.
"Your stay here will definitely be an eye-opening and memorable experience," he said. "One year is not long. I hope that all of you will take full advantage of this program, work hard and learn from your fellow schoolmates."
LONGING TO REBUILD HOME
Liu Yu, a computer major, also has a story behind his name.
"I was born on a rainy day," he said. "So my dad chose Yu, or rain in Chinese, as my first name."
The atmosphere at the reception was by no means downcast.
When Consul Li Guozao from the consulate's Education Section addressed the students in Sichuan dialect, they burst into laughter.
"I believe that you will surely carry forward the spirit displayed in the fight against the earthquake catastrophe, and through one year's study at SUNY, prove to the world that you're the most outstanding!"
Su Chang, a girl who lost both parents in the quake, appeared so sunny that few people could imagine the kind of tragedy she had gone through.
"I'm very excited about this," she said, smiling. "I have always been curious about America. I am here in the hope of learning more about their culture, their way of life, and to learn something practical to improve myself."
"I hope that I'll be able to rebuild my homeland in the future," said Su, who will be staying at the university's Buffalo campus." And to put to use what I have learned where needed."